“Winter Snow” (featuring Audrey Assad) from Chris Tomlin’s new Christmas album called “Glory In The Highest”
(HT: Andy Fenton)
Stop mocking religions and start stealing from them? Why Alain de Botton’s new book is doomed to fail
The thesis of Alain de Botton‘s next book is that religion is good for atheists. It’s sure to create a stir (and sell a few copies) if Religion for Atheists: A non-believer’s guide to the uses of religion is all that it is cracked up to be.
There’s even an opportunity to hear a secular sermon from him in advance via the school of life in January of next year.
Judging from the introduction to the book on his own website it seems that de Botton thinks you can steal the best bits of a religion without being religious yourself.
The problem with the thesis is that, uniquely for Christianity, it simply cannot work that way. For to steal gospel instructions on how to live without relying on God who gives us life through the gospel is to steal a car without an engine. Quite simply you are going nowhere.
Here’s what I hope de Botton might grasp: the Christian life depends, and depends absolutely, on the Christian gospel . It is the engine of the Christian life because only a deep inner grasp of what the gospel has done for us can enable the response required in the Christian life.
So, for example, Christian community is made possible not because we choose to be nice, or like to forgive, or want to get along but because of a fundamental change of identity that the gospel alone has brought about.Christian community depends, absolutely, on the knowledge that IF Christ has died for me and you, and IF he has reconciled us to God, then he has reconciled us to each other.
The FACT that both I and they have been loved by God in Christ obligates me to love and serve them and gives me. The FACT that I have been loved by God in Christ also gives me a compelling and powerful motivation to boot. The ability to love flows out of the experience of love. The desire to forgive flows out of the experience of forgivenss. That is why the power to live the Christian life flows out of the gospel itself.
The same is true of forgiveness. The apostle Paul says to the Christian ‘forgive because’, but because what? Because, Ephesians 4:32 ‘in Christ Jesus God forgave you.’ I forgive because I have been forgiven.
And this is where de Botton’s thesis breaks down for the atheist does not share that experience and as a result does not share that obligation to live with regard to anyone. He does not claim to have experienced a forgiveness that compels him to forgive others. Forgiveness for the atheist is a lifestyle choice. He is not being inconsistent if he does or doesn’t forgive his neighbour. There is the world of difference between the Christian requirement to forgive because we have been forgiven and the atheist who is under no such obligation.
Take away the gospel indicatives (Christ forgave us) and there remain no binding gospel imperatives (therefore forgive one another).
It will be a curious thing to see how de Botton will escape such an obvious and necessary conclusion.
Tim Keller speaks to Google staff on the essence of marriage from a Christian perspective. A very helpful and stimulating look at defending marriage before a sceptical audience.
Let me tell you why I work wherever possible through teams in church ministry.
The heart of it is this – through teams we learn to lead through others.
1. Teams recognise gifting. People are full of surprises and gifts are waiting to be nurtured. Inviting someone to be on a leadership team gives them limited opportunity and responsibility from which you can both assess gifting and aptitude in a relatively safe environment.
2. Teams facilitate a culture of ‘every member ministry’. At our church we want everyone to be exercising gifts and serving in some way. It helps integrate people into church and it helps model how the gospel works out in practice. A church with passengers [a very different category from visitors] is a dangerous place to be.
3. Teams help cement commitment from individuals in the church. It’s easy to opt in and out of church until responsibility compels you to commit. It’s really healthy for Christians to have to say ‘no’ to something else because a church commitment calls.
4. Teams develop leaders. When I form a team I’m looking for someone to take on that team and to lead it 6 months to 2 years down the line. Teams help identify leaders and provide a great way to train them.
5. Teams are a safe way to test character and ability. Is this person reliable, dependable, trustworthy, etc. Team-life reveals a lot.
6. Teams help you avoid burn out. Most ministers are doing too much. Some responsibilities can be delegated to teams saving you time and helping you focus your priorities.
7. Teams build community through stronger and more diverse relationships within the church. Teams bring people together to work on projects who perhaps don’t know each other well or wouldn’t naturally relate. Deliberately building diverse teams facilitates community too.
8. Teams create synergies. Allsorts of ideas, creative solutions and problem-solving comes from good teams working together, sparking off each other.
9. Teams model biblical practises. Jesus worked in a team. Enough said.
10. Teams foster accountability. They train people to learn to be disciplined and dependable.
11. Teams prevent a church from pursuing an ungodly professionalism. Church members are tempted to pay staff to do the work and staff are tempted to justify their place by doing the work.
12. Teams teach you to relate better to the church. Teams prevent you from making mistakes in the life of the church generated from one or two people deciding everything often without a wide enough understanding of the impact on church life.
RESULT? Through teams we build a church and through teams we model ministry as a church and through teams we achieve more for a church.
- Church Planting
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- The Christian Life
- Transforming Society
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